Welcome to the Enderverse.
When "Ender's Game" was first published as a novella twenty-five years ago few would have predicted that it would become one of the most successful ventures in publishing history. Expanded into a novel in 1985, Ender's Game won both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novel. Never out of print and translated into dozens of languages, it is the rare work of fiction that can truly be said to have transcended a genre. Ender's Game and its sequels have won dozens of prestigious awards and are as popular today among teens and young readers as adults.
First Meetings is a collection of three novellas-plus the original "Ender's Game"-that journey into the origins and the destiny of one Ender Wiggin.
"The Polish Boy" begins in the wake between the first two Bugger Wars when the Hegemony is desperate to recruit brilliant military commanders to repel the alien invasion. In John Paul Wiggin-the future father of Ender -they believe they may have found their man. Or boy.
In "Teacher's Pest"-a novella written especially for this collection-a brilliant but insufferably arrogant John Paul Wiggin, now an American university student, matches wits with an equally brilliant graduate student named Theresa Brown.
It is many years since the end of the Bugger Wars in "The Investment Counselor." Ender's reputation as a hero and savior has suffered a horrible reversal. Banished from Earth and slandered as a mass murderer, twenty-year-old Andrew Wiggin wanders incognito from planet to planet as a fugitive. Until a blackmailing tax inspector compromises his identity and threatens to expose Ender the Xenocide.
Also reprinted here is the original landmark novella, "Ender's Game," which first appeared in 1977.
Fully illustrated, First Meetings is Orson Scott Card writing at the height of his considerable power about his most compelling character.
At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
[An] appealing and entertaining collection of tales....For newcomers to Ender's universe and longtime fans, this book will hit the spot and whet the appetite for more.--School Library Journal on First Meetings
Showcases Card's talent at developing the inner life of a character. Even those who are intimately familiar with the concepts of the Game from later Ender books will be struck anew by Card's virtuosity. His powerful voice and startlingly clear vision will draw many new readers into a lifelong love of science fiction. This accessible collection will impress even non-sci-fi buffs, besides being a must-have for Ender saga devotees.--Publishers Weekly on First Meetings
These stories demonstrate the assured scene setting, apparently effortlessly sustained suspense, and moral preoccupation with the responsibilities of kinship and friendship that distinguishes Ender's entire saga.--Booklist on First Meetings
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August 31, 2004
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Excerpt from First Meetings by Orson Scott Card
FIRST MEETINGS (THE POLISH BOY)
John Paul hated school. His Mother did her best, but how could she possibly teach anything to him when she had eight other children--six of them to teach, two of them to tend because they were mere babies?
What John Paul hated most was the way she kept teaching him things he already knew. She would assign him to make his letters, practicing them over and over while she taught interesting things to the older kids. So John Paul did his best to make sense of the jumble of information he caught from her conversations with them. Smatterings of geography--he learned the names of dozens of nations and their capitals but wasn't quite sure what a nation was. Bits of mathematics--she taught polynomials over and over to Anna because she didn't even seem to try to understand, but it enabled John Paul to learn the operation. But he learned it like a machine, having no notion what it actually meant.
Nor could he ask. When he tried, Mother would get impatient and tell him that he would learn these things in due time, but he should concentrate on his own lessons now.
His own lessons? He wasn't getting any lessons, just boring tasks that almost made him crazy with impatience. Didn't she realize that he could already read and write as well as any of his older siblings? She made him recite from a primer, when he was perfectly capable of reading any book in the house. He tried to tell her, I can read that one, Mother. But she only answered, John Paul, that's playing. I want you to learn real reading.
Maybe if he didn't turn the pages of the grown-up books so quickly, she would realize that he was actually reading. But when he was interested in a book, he couldn't bear to slow down just to impress Mother. What did his reading have to do with her? It was his own. The only part of school that he enjoyed.
You're never going to stay up with your lessons, she said more than once, if you keep spending your reading time with these big books. Look, they don't even have pictures, why do you insist on playing with them?
He's not playing, said Andrew, who was twelve. He's reading.
Yes, yes, I should be more patient and play along, said Mother, but I don't have time to... And then one of the babies cried and the conversation was over.
Outside on the street, other children walked to school wearing school uniforms, laughing and jostling each other. Andrew explained it to him. They go to school in a big building. Hundreds of them in the same school.
John Paul was aghast. Why don't their own mothers teach them? How can they learn anything with hundreds?
There's more than one teacher, silly. A teacher for every ten or fifteen of them. But they're all the same age, all learning the same thing in each class. So the teacher spends the whole day on their lessons instead of having to go from age to age.
John Paul thought a moment. And every age has its own teacher?
And the teachers don't have to feed babies and change their diapers. They have time to really teach.
But what good would that have done for John Paul? They would have put him in a class with other five-year-olds and made him read stupid primers all day--and he wouldn't be able to listen to the teacher giving lessons to the ten- and twelve- and fourteen-year-olds, so he really would lose his mind.
It's like heaven, said Andrew bitterly. And if Father and Mother had had only two children, they could have gone there. But the minute Anna was born, we were cited for noncompliance.
John Paul was tired of hearing that word without understanding it. What is noncompliance?
There's this great big war out in space, said Andrew. Way above the sky.
I know what space is, said John Paul impatiently.
OK, well, big war and all, so all the countries of the world have to work together and pay to build hundreds and hundreds of starships, so they put somebody called the Hegemon in charge of the whole world. And the Hegemon says we can't afford the problems caused by overpopulation, so any marriage that has more than two children is noncompliant.
Andrew stopped as if he thought that made everything clear.
But lots of families have more than two kids, said John Paul. Half their neighbors did.
Because this is Poland, said Andrew, and we're Catholic.
What, does the priest give people extra babies? John Paul couldn't see the connection.
Catholics believe you should have as many children as God sends you. And no government has the right to tell you to reject God's gifts.
What gifts? said John Paul.
You, dummy, said Andrew. You're God's gift number seven in this house. And the babies are gift eight and gift nine.
But what does it have to do with going to school?
Andrew rolled his eyes. You really are dumb, he said. Schools are run by the government. The government has to enforce sanctions against noncompliance. And one of the sanctions is, only the first two children in a family have a right to go to school.
But Peter and Catherine don't go to school, said John Paul.
Because Father and Mother don't want them to learn all the anti-Catholic things the schools teach.
John Paul wanted to ask what anti-Catholic meant, but then he realized it must mean something like against-the-Catholics so it wasn't worth asking and having Andrew call him a dummy again.
Instead he thought and thought about it. How a war made it so all the nations gave power to one man, and that one man then told everybody how many children they could have, and all the extra children were kept out of school. That was actually a benefit, wasn't it? Not to go to school? How would John Paul have learned anything, if he hadn't been in the same room with Anna and Andrew and Peter and Catherine and Nicholas and Thomas, overhearing their lessons?
The most puzzling thing was the idea that the schools could teach anti-Catholic stuff. Everybody's Catholic, aren't they? he asked Father once.
In Poland, yes. Or they say they are. And it used to be true. Father's eyes were closed. His eyes were almost always closed, whenever he sat down. Even when he was eating, he always looked as though he were about to fall over and sleep. That was because he worked two jobs, the legal one during the day and the illegal one at night. John Paul almost never saw him except in the morning, and then Father was too tired to talk and Mother would shush him.
She shushed him now, even though Father had already answered him. Don't pester your father with questions, he has important things on his mind.
I have nothing on my mind, said Father wearily. I have no mind.
Anyway, said Mother.
But John Paul had another question, and he had to ask it. If everybody's Catholic, why do the schools teach anti-Catholic?
Father looked at him like he was crazy. How old are you?
He must not have understood what John Paul was asking, since it had nothing to do with ages. I'm five, Father, don't you remember? But why do the schools teach anti-Catholic?
Father turned to Mother. He's only five, why are you teaching him this?
You taught him, said Mother. Always ranting about the government.
It's not our government, it's a military occupation. Just one more attempt to extinguish Poland.
Yes, keep talking, that's how you'll get cited again and you'll lose your job and then what will we do?
It was obvious John Paul wasn't going to get any answer and he gave up, saving the question for later, when he got more information and could connect it together.
That was how life went on, the year John Paul was five: Mother working constantly, cooking meals and tending the babies even while she tried to run a school in the parlor, Father going away to work so early in the morning that the sun wasn't even up, and all of the children awake so they could see their father at least once a day.
Until the day Father stayed home from work.
Mother and Father were both very quiet and tense at breakfast, and when Anna asked them why Father wasn't dressed for work, Mother only snapped, He's not going today, in a tone that said, Ask no more questions.
With two teachers, lessons should have gone better that day. But Father was an impatient teacher, and he made Anna and Catherine so upset they fled to their rooms, and he ended up going out into the garden to weed.
So when the knock came on the door, Mother had to send Andrew running out back to get Father. Moments later, Father came in, still brushing dirt from his hands. The knock had come twice more while he was coming, each time more insistent.
Father opened the door and stood in the frame, his large strong body filling the space. What do you want? he demanded. He said it in Common rather than Polish, so they knew it was a foreigner at the door.
The answer was quiet, but John Paul heard it clearly. It was a woman's voice, and she said, I'm from the International Fleet's testing program. I understand you have three boys between the ages of six and twelve.
Our children are none of your business.
Actually, Mr. Wieczorek, the mandatory testing initiative is the law, and I'm here to fulfill my responsibilities under that law. If you prefer, I can have the military police come and explain it to you. She said it so mildly that John Paul almost missed the fact that it wasn't an offer she was making, it was a threat.
Father stepped back, his face grim. What would you do, put me in jail? You've passed laws that forbid my wife from working, we have to teach our children at home, and now you'd deprive my family of any food at all.
I don't make government policy, said the woman as she surveyed the room full of children. All I care about is testing children.
Andrew spoke up. Peter and Catherine already passed the government tests, he said. Only a month ago. They're up to grade.
This isn't about being up to grade, said the woman. I'm not from the schools or the Polish government--
There is no Polish government, said Father. Only an occupying army to enforce the dictatorship of the Hegemony.
I'm from the fleet, said the woman. By law we're forbidden even to express opinions of Hegemony policy while we're in uniform. The sooner I begin the testing, the sooner you can go back to your regular routines. They all speak Common?
Of course, said Mother, a little pridefully. At least as well as they speak Polish.
I watch the test, said Father.
I'm sorry, sir, said the woman, but you do not watch. You provide me with a room where I can be alone with each child, and if you have only one room in your dwelling, you take everyone outside or to a neighbor's house. I will conduct these tests.
Father tried to face her down, but he had no weapons for this battle, and he looked away. It doesn't matter if you test or not. Even if they pass, I'm not letting you take them.
Let's cross that bridge when we come to it, said the woman. She looked sad. And John Paul suddenly understood why: Because she knew that Father would have no choice about anything, but she didn't want to embarrass him by pointing it out. She just wanted to do her job and go.
John Paul didn't know how he knew these things, but sometimes they just came to him. It wasn't like history facts or geography or mathematics, where you had to learn things before you knew them. He could just look at people and listen to them and suddenly he'd know things about them. About what they wanted or why they were doing the things they were doing. When his brothers and sisters quarreled, for instance. He usually got a clear idea of just what was causing the quarrel, and most of the time he knew, without even trying to think of it, just the right thing to say to make the quarreling stop. Sometimes he didn't say it, because he didn't mind if they quarreled. But when one of them was getting really angry--angry enough to hit--then John Paul would say the thing he needed to say, and the fight would stop, just like that.
With Peter, it was often something like, Just do what he says, Peter's the boss of everybody, and then Peter's face would turn red and he'd leave the room and the argument would stop, just like that. Because Peter hated having people say he thought he was boss. But that didn't work with Anna, with her it took something like, Your face is getting all red, and then John Paul would laugh, and she would go outside and screech and then come back inside and storm around the house, but the quarrel itself was over. Because Anna hated to think she ever, ever looked funny or silly.
And even now, he knew that if he just said, Papa, I'm scared, Father would push the woman out of the house and then he would be in so much trouble. But if John Paul said, Papa, can I take the test, too? Father would laugh and he wouldn't look so ashamed and unhappy and angry.
So he said it.
Father laughed. That's John Paul, always wants to do more than he's able.
The woman looked at John Paul. How old is he?
Not six yet, said Mother sharply.
Oh, said the woman. Well, then, I assume this is Nicholas, this is Thomas, and this is Andrew?
Why aren't you testing me? demanded Peter.
I'm afraid you're already too old, she answered. By the time the Fleet was able to gain access to noncompliant nations... Her voice trailed off.
Peter got up and mournfully left the room.
Why not girls? said Catherine.
Because girls don't want to be soldiers, said Anna.
And suddenly John Paul realized that this wasn't like the regular government tests. This was a test that Peter wanted to take, and Catherine was jealous that it couldn't be given to girls.
If this test was about becoming a soldier, it was dumb that Peter would be considered too old. He was the only one who had his man-height. What, did they think Andrew or Nicholas could carry a gun and kill people? Maybe Thomas could, but he was also kind of fat besides being tall and he didn't look like any soldier John Paul had seen.
Whom do you want first? asked Mother. And can you do it in a bedroom so I can keep their lessons going?
Regulations require that I do it in a room with street access, with the door open, said the woman.
Oh, for the love of--we aren't going to hurt you, said Father.
The woman only looked at him briefly, and then looked at Mother, and both of John Paul's parents seemed to give in. John Paul realized: Somebody must have been hurt giving this test. Somebody must have been taken into a back room and somebody hurt them. Or killed them. This was a dangerous business. Some people must be even angrier about the testing than Father and Mother.
Why would Father and Mother hate and fear something that Peter and Catherine wished they could have?
It proved impossible to have a regular school day in the girls' bedroom, even though it had the fewest beds, and soon Mother resorted to having a free-reading time while she nursed one of the babies.
And when John Paul asked if he could go read in the other room, she gave consent.
Of course, she assumed he meant the other bedroom, because whenever somebody in the family said the other room they meant the other bedroom. But John Paul had no intention of going in there. Instead he headed for the kitchen.
Father and Mother had forbidden the children to enter the parlor while the testing was going on, but that didn't prevent John Paul from sitting on the floor just outside the parlor, reading a book while he listened to the test.
Every now and then he was aware that the woman giving the test was glancing at him, but she never said anything to him and so he just kept reading. It was a book about the life of St. John Paul II, the great Polish pope that he had been named for, and John Paul was fascinated because he was finally getting answers to some of his questions about why Catholics were different and the Hegemon didn't like them.
Even as he read, he also listened to all of the testing. But it wasn't like the government tests, with questions about facts and seeing if they could figure out math answers or name parts of speech. Instead she asked each boy questions that didn't really have answers. About what he liked and didn't like, about why people did the things they did. Only after about fifteen minutes of those questions did she start the written test with more regular problems.
In fact, the first time, John Paul didn't think those questions were part of the test. Only when she asked each boy the exact same questions and then followed up on the differences in their answers did he realize this was definitely one of the main things she was here to do. And from the way she got so involved and tense asking those questions, John Paul gathered that she thought these questions were actually more important than the written part of the test.
John Paul wanted to answer the questions. He wanted to take the test. He liked to take tests. He always answered silently when the older children were taking tests, to see if he could answer as many questions as they did.
So when she was finishing up with Andrew, John Paul was just about to ask if he could take the test when the woman spoke to Mother. How old is this one?
We told you, said Mother. He's only five.
Look what he's reading.
He just turns the pages. It's a game. He's imitating the way he sees the older children read.
He's reading, said the woman.
Oh, you're here for a few hours and you know more about my children than I do, even though I teach them for hours every day?
The woman did not argue. What is his name?
Mother didn't want to answer.
John Paul, said John Paul.
Mother glared at him. So did Andrew.
I want to take the test, he said.
You're too young, said Andrew, in Polish.
I turn six in three weeks, said John Paul. He spoke in Common. He wanted the woman to understand him.
The woman nodded. I'm allowed to test him early, she said.
Allowed, but not required, said Father, coming into the room. What's he doing in here?
He said he was going into the other room to read, said Mother. I thought he meant the other bedroom.
I'm in the kitchen, said John Paul.
He didn't disturb anything, said the woman.
Too bad, said Father.
I'd like to test him, the woman said.
No, said Father.
Somebody will just have to come back in three weeks and do it then, she said. And disrupt your day one more time. Why not have done with it today?
He's already heard the answers, said Mother. If he was sitting here listening.
The test isn't like that, said the woman. It's all right that he heard.
John Paul could see already that Father and Mother were both going to give in, so he didn't bother saying anything to try to influence them. He didn't want to use his ability to say the right words too often, or somebody would catch on, and it would stop working.
It took a few more minutes of conversation, but then John Paul was sitting on the couch beside the woman.
I really was reading, said John Paul.
I know, said the woman.
How? asked John Paul.
Because you were turning the pages in a regular rhythm, she said. You read very fast, don't you?
John Paul nodded. When it's interesting.
And St. John Paul II is an interesting man?
He did what he thought was right, said John Paul.
You're named after him, she said.
He was very brave, said John Paul. And he never did what bad people wanted him to do, if he thought it was important.
What bad people?
The Communists, said John Paul.
How do you know they were bad people? Does the book say so?
Not in words, John Paul realized. They were making people do things. They were trying to punish people for being Catholic.
And that's bad?
God is Catholic, said John Paul.
The woman smiled. Muslims think that God is a Muslim.
John Paul digested this. Some people think God doesn't exist.
That's true, said the woman.
Which? he asked.
She chuckled. That some people think he doesn't exist. I don't know, myself. I don't have an opinion on the subject.
That means you don't believe there is a God, said John Paul.
Oh, does it?
St. John Paul II said so. That saying you don't know or care about God is the same as saying you believe he doesn't exist, because if you had even a hope that he existed, you would care very much.
She laughed. Just turning the pages, were you?
I can answer all your questions, he said.
Before I ask them?
I wouldn't hit him, said John Paul, answering the question about what he would do if a friend tried to take away something of his. Because then he wouldn't be my friend. But I wouldn't let him take the thing either.
The follow-up to this answer had been, How would you stop him? So John Paul went right on without pausing. The way I'd stop him is, I'd say, 'You can have it. I give it to you, it's yours now. Because I'd rather keep you as a friend than keep that thing.'
Where did you learn that? asked the woman.
That's not one of the questions, said John Paul.
She shook her head. No, it's not.
I think sometimes you have to hurt people, said John Paul, answering the next question, which had been, Is there ever a time when you have a right to hurt somebody else?
He answered every question, including the follow-ups, without her having to ask any of them. He did it in the same order she had asked them of his brothers, and when he was done, he said, Now the written part. I don't know those questions cause I couldn't see them and you didn't say them.
They were easier than he thought. They were about shapes and remembering things and picking out right sentences and doing numbers, things like that. She kept looking at her watch, so he hurried.
When it was all done, she just sat there looking at him.
Did I do it right? asked John Paul.
He studied her face, the way she sat, the way her hands didn't move, the way she looked at him. The way she was breathing. He realized that she was very excited, trying hard to stay calm. That's why she wasn't speaking. She didn't want him to know.
But he knew.
He was what she had come here looking for.
Some people might say that this is why women can't be used for testing, said Col. Sillain.
Then those people would be mentally deficient, said Helena Rudolf.
Too susceptible to a cute face, said Sillain. Too prone to go 'Aw' and give a kid the benefit of the doubt on everything.
Fortunately, you don't harbor any such suspicions, said Helena.
No, said Sillain. That's because I happen to know you have no heart.
There we are, said Helena. We finally understand each other.
And you say this Polish five-year-old is more than just precocious.
Heaven knows, that's the main thing our tests identify--general precociousness.
There are better tests being developed. Very specific for military ability. And younger than you might think.
Too bad that it's already almost too late.
Col. Sillain shrugged. There's a theory that we don't actually have to put them through a full course of training.
Yes, yes, I read all about how young Alexander was. It helped that he was the son of the king and that he fought unmotivated armies of mercenaries.
So you think the Buggers are motivated.
The Buggers are a commander's dream, said Helena. They don't question orders, they just do. Whatever.
Also a commander's nightmare, said Sillain. They don't think for themselves.
John Paul Wieczorek is the real thing, said Helena. And in thirty-five years, he'll be forty. So the Alexander theory won't have to be tested.
Now you're talking as if you're sure he'll be the one.
I don't know that, said Helena. But he's something. The things he says.
I read your report.
When he said, 'I'd rather keep you as a friend than keep that thing,' I about lost it. I mean, he's five.
And that didn't set off your alarms? He sounds coached.
But he wasn't. His parents didn't want any of them tested, least of all him, being underage and all.
They said they didn't want.
The father stayed home from work to try to stop me.
Or to make you think he wanted to stop you.
He can't afford to lose a day's pay. Noncompliant parents don't get paid vacations.
I know, said Sillain. Wouldn't it be ironic if this John Paul Whatever--
Yes, that's the one. Wouldn't it be ironic if, after all our stringent population control efforts--for the sake of the war, mind you--it turned out that the commander of the fleet turned out to be the seventh child of noncompliant parents?
Yes, very ironic.
I think one theory was that birth order predicts that only firstborns would have the personality for what we need.
All else being equal. Which it isn't.
We're so ahead of ourselves here, Captain Rudolf, said Sillain. The parents are not likely to say yes, are they?
No, not likely, said Helena.
So it's all moot, isn't it?
Oh, that would be so wise, to make an international incident out of this. He leaned back in his chair.
I don't think it would be an international incident.
The treaty with Poland has very strict parental-control provisions. Have to respect the family and all.
The Poles are very anxious to rejoin the rest of the world. They aren't going to invoke that clause if we impress on them how important this boy is.
Is he? asked Sillain. That's the question. If he's worth the gamble of making a huge stink about it.
If it starts to stink, we can back off, said Helena.
Oh, I can see you've done a lot of public relations work.
Come see him yourself, said Helena. He'll be six in a few days. Come see him. Then tell me whether he's worth the risk of an international incident.
This was not at all how John Paul wanted to spend his birthday. Mother had made candy all day with sugar she begged from neighbors, and John Paul wanted to suck on his, not chew it, so it would last and last. Instead Father told him either to spit it out into the garbage or swallow it, and so now it was swallowed and gone, all for these people from the International Fleet.
We got some questionable results from the preliminary screening, said the man. Perhaps because the child had listened to three previous tests. We need to get accurate information, that's all.
He was lying--that was obvious, from the way he moved, the way he looked Father right in the eye, unwaveringly. A liar who knew he was lying and was trying hard not to look like he was lying. The way Thomas always did. It fooled Father but never Mother, and never John Paul.
So if the man was lying, why? Why was he really coming to test John Paul again?
He remembered what he had thought right after the woman tested him three weeks ago, that she had found what she was looking for. But then nothing had happened and he figured he must have been wrong. Now she was back and the man who was with her was telling lies.
The family was banished to other rooms. It was evening, time for Father to go to his second job, only he couldn't go while these people were here or they'd know, or guess, or wonder what he was doing, hour after hour during the evening. So the longer this took, the less money Father would earn tonight, and therefore the less food they'd be able to eat, the less clothing they'd have to wear.
The man even sent the woman out of the room. That annoyed John Paul. He liked the woman.
He didn't like at all the way the man looked at their house. At the other children. At Mother and Father. As if he thought himself better than they were.
The man asked a question.
John Paul answered in Polish instead of Common.
The man looked at him blankly. He called out, I thought he spoke Common!
The woman stuck her head back into the room. Apparently she had only gone to the kitchen. He does, fluently, said the woman.
The man looked back at John Paul, and the disdainful look was gone. So what game are you playing?
In Polish, John Paul said, The only reason we're poor is because the Hegemon punishes Catholics for obeying God.
In Common, please, said the man.
The language is called English, said John Paul in Polish, and why should I talk to you at all?
The man sighed. Sorry to waste your time. He got up.
The woman came back into the room. They thought they were whispering soft enough, but like most adults, they thought that children didn't understand adult conversations so they weren't all that careful about being quiet.
He's defying you, said the woman.
Yes, I guessed that, said the man testily.
So if you go, he wins.
Good one, thought John Paul. This woman wasn't stupid. She knew what to say to make this man do what she wanted.
Or somebody does.
She walked over to John Paul. Colonel Sillain thinks I was lying when I said you did so well on the tests.
In Common, John Paul said, How well did I do?
The woman only got a little smile on her face and glanced back at Col. Sillain.
Sillain sat back down. All right then. Are you ready?
In Polish, John Paul said, I'm ready if you speak Polish.
Impatiently, Sillain turned back to the woman. What does he want?
In Common, John Paul said to the woman, Tell him I don't want to be tested by a man who thinks my family is scum.
In the first place, said the man, I don't think that.
Liar, said John Paul in Polish.
He turned to the woman. She shrugged helplessly. I don't speak Polish either.
John Paul said to her, in Common, You rule over us but you don't bother to learn our language. Instead we have to learn yours.
She laughed. It's not my language. Or his. Common is just a universalized dialect of English, and I'm German. She pointed at Sillain. He's Finnish. Nobody speaks his language anymore. Not even the Finns.
Listen, said Sillain, turning to John Paul. I'm not going to play around anymore. You speak Common, and I don't speak Polish, so answer my questions in Common.
What are you going to do? asked John Paul in Polish, put me in jail?
It was fun watching Sillain turn redder and redder, but then Father came into the room, looking very weary. John Paul, he said. Do what the man asks.
They want to take me away from you, said John Paul in Common.
Nothing of the kind, said the man.
He's lying, said John Paul.
The man turned slightly red.
And he hates us. He thinks we're poor and that it's disgusting to have so many children.
That is not true, said Sillain.
Father ignored him. We are poor, John Paul.
Only because of the Hegemony, said John Paul.
Don't preach my own sermons back at me, said Father. But he switched to Polish to say it. If you don't do what they want, then they can punish your mother and me.
Father sometimes knew exactly the right words to say, too.
John Paul turned back to Sillain. I don't want to be alone with you. I want her to be here for the test.
Part of the test, said Sillain, is seeing how well you obey orders.
Then I fail, said John Paul"